We have all been in situations in which we talk about the “sacrifices” we make in life. We often hear parents speak of the sacrifices they make for the sake of their children. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2014) defines sacrifice as “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone”. Whenever we speak of sacrifices made for someone, especially our children, we are inducting that child into a world of feeling guilty for their own existence (Ausubel, 1955). When I hear parents say “Look at the sacrifices I made for you” to their children, I always cringe at the feelings of shame and guilt the child is having imposed on them for the event of being born, which was an action brought about by the parents, and not the innocent child.
An individual recently commented to me on their perceptions of the many “sacrifices” I had made to stay with my children. I sat and thought about their comments for a moment, and as I thought about it, I realized I had not made personal sacrifices for my children. I am not going to lie and admit that there have not been times when I have had the thoughts that I sacrificed my life goals for my children. I put off pursuing a PhD for 10 years because of the age of my children. I have moved away from my family and friends of my childhood to be with my children and husband in Saudi Arabia. One could see these as sacrifices, but in fact, not choosing to stay with my children would be a personal sacrifice for me. Children are gifts, although I will be the first to admit that during the toddler temper tantrums, the mood swings of pre-adolescence, and the rebelliousness of the teenage years, it is hard sometimes to keep this point of view in perspective.
Children come into the world by the choices their parents make. If a parent believes that they have made “sacrifices” to have children, perhaps they should reconsider the purpose of having children. The concept of “responsibility” becomes a crucial component of this concept of “sacrifices” and “guilt” versus our “values” and “responsibilities”. If an individual sees the sacrifice of raising children with emotional support, love, caring, and teaching them responsibility as a sacrifice, perhaps their values as well as concept of parenting needs to be re-evaluated.
As I sat and carefully pondered this person’s perception of my sacrifice, it came to me I had made no personal sacrifices, except for the time I sent my 15 year old daughter back to the United States from Saudi Arabia to finish her education. That was a sacrifice, because I had to let someone l loved dearly leave me, versus keeping her in a country that was not her own. I choose to stay with my three younger children, and have her go back to the United States: This was a personal sacrifice; I had to give up someone that I wanted with me on a daily basis, and chose my three younger children in Saudi Arabia. Who has really sacrificed are my children because of the past choices I have made. I looked at the person who said this comment to me and told them “Staying with my children is not a sacrifice, because my children are my gifts”.
Ausubel, D. P. (1955). Relationships between shame and guilt in the socializing process. Psychological review, 62(5), 378.
Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary. (2014). Sacrifice. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacrifice